I have spent a majority of my life thinking I am a lot stronger, physically, than I actually am. I have this weird condition where I think I can beat up everyone. In high school, the strength and conditioning coach liked to test to see how much I could lift. As a result, I ended most basketball seasons squatting and cleaning at least as much as many of the guys on the team. I liked the idea of being strong. However, my vision of strength was limited in scope. I felt that strength was legitimized only by how much I could lift. Conversely, the strength I want to talk about today is strength that comes from within.
I remember reading through the Book of Mormon with some of the other missionaries while I was serving in Nauvoo, a mission that only has sisters. We came to the part of the story when Nephi and his family are journeying through the wilderness. In addition to moving their whole lives across the desert, the women were also having kids! In 1 Nephi 17:2 it says that the women "were strong, yea, even like unto the men." I had always LOVED this verse, much to the surprise of the sisters I was reading with. In their minds eye they saw these women who were big, hulking and not very pretty, not necessarily the kind of women they were aiming to be :) I tried to explain to them that the reason I loved this verse so much is that it showed that these women were just as strong as the men, and it wasn't a bad thing. It was a good thing. It was something that they had been blessed with. And maybe I related a little bit to the being big and hulky aspect - given my man thighs, a blessing and a curse from the good ol papa ;)
Perhaps one of my favorite illustrations of strength however, focuses on what I think is the real strength of women. It was related in a General Conference address in 1982, and comes from the talk, "The Future History of the Church" by G. Homer Durham. In the talk, Elder Durham relates the expedition of the early Mormon pioneers through "Hole-in-the-Rock", a treacherous pass with sheer cliffs that descended through Glen Canyon. Wagons required chains to lock the wheels and multiple ropes tied to the side held by men to make sure the wagon didn't careen out of control and crush all those in it's path. Now comes my favorite part of one group's journey :)
The family of Joseph Stanford Smith and his wife, Arabella, was the last wagon to descend that day. A grandson, Raymond Smith Jones, has described their experience. I doubt that a modern film company, with millions of dollars and modern engineering resources, could film this epic.
Perhaps more important than any physical strength shown that day, was the strength that came from within Belle to do what needed to be done. This type of strength is not easily measured or easily visible to others. However, it is so beautifully illustrated by this and many other stories of women throughout church history and the scriptures.
In both of these examples, I love that while the strength exhibited by the women was equal to the men, it was not the same. Belle didn't magically grow muscles to physically become as strong as her husband, and the wives of Nephi and his company didn't either. They knew what needed to be done, and their inner strength, their strength as women of faith, enabled them to accomplish the task at hand. I am grateful for these examples of strong women in my life, not necessarily strong in the physical sense, but strong in faith. I hope that each of us, male or female, can learn that while it may be outwardly exhibited differently, true strength comes from faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and is exhibited just as strongly by women as it is by men. I LOVE church history and the Book of Mormon and will always be grateful for the way the examples of others positively influences my own life. And I love you all too much!
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